Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned of the potential for a major COVID-19 outbreak in the city and encouraged residents to stay indoors as new restrictions come into effect in the city.
“We are on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak, which can lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially the elderly,” Lam said in a statement Tuesday night. according to Reuters.
“In order to protect our loved ones, our health care staff and Hong Kong, I ask that you strictly follow social distancing measures and stay home as far as possible,” he added.
Lam’s comments come as the city moves to implement new coronavirus restrictions starting Wednesday, which includes a ban on meetings of more than two people and a ban on dining in restaurants. Hong Kong also implemented a mandate to wear face masks in public, including outdoors.
The restrictions followed an increase in COVID-19 cases in the past three weeks, with 106 new cases confirmed on Tuesday. Since January, Hong Kong has recorded 2,880 coronavirus infections and 23 deaths, according to Reuters.
The ban on eating indoors comes as some restaurants in the semi-autonomous city leave their locations to move to more affordable areas and save on rents after the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, the South China Morning Post reported.
Hong Kong had banned dining after 6 p.m., but the additional limitations are expected to cause more companies to follow suit when moving. About 16,000 restaurants in the city are struggling financially after the city instituted its first restrictions in March, according to the South China Morning Post.